"High Maintenance?" What does THAT mean, Amy?
It means that my preteen has "issues" but none severe enough to where I feel legit using the term "special needs". He has ADHD, but so do 5 bazillion other kids. He also has ODD but a somewhat milder form, so his behaviors are exhibited as more quirks than actual problems to treat. Please read here to learn more about this. He's kind enough to keep most of his defiance at home.
What this means is that a family vacation turns into a bit of work. My oldest and his brother are 18 months apart and polar opposites. They bicker like nasty old ladies. The five year old is as sweet as can be but, well, he's five. He has his limitations regarding compromise and patience. Thing 1 is a FAB kid on his own - polite and thoughtful. When his brothers are in a 5 mile radius, peace becomes tenuous. Everything they do or may think about someday wanting to do irritates him. If he is irritated enough, he becomes unreasonable and immovable.
This personality screams, "Take me on a family vacation to The Happiest Place On Earth!", no?
So I took him on his own, and I'm so grateful I did.
What Didn't Work:
1) Grand Plans: I am a Park Commando. I often hit 2 parks per day on my Disney trips. Thing 1 is simply not built that way. He's an introvert who has anxiety in new situations. Slow down, Mama.
2) Lack of Clear Spending Limits: Kids with impulse & defiance issues are often
3) Food: This kid eats like a horse at home. At Epcot, with the food of the world at his fingertips, he's not hungry. The whole trip was spent nibbling on snacks I brought with us and consistently insisting he didn't want to eat. I canceled the one table service reservation we had; it would have been a huge waste of money. He was out of his usual routine and I'm guessing that threw his appetite out of whack - Mickey Bars notwithstanding.
4) Lines: If your child has a condition which warrants a DAS card, GET IT! Mine does not although he has loads of general irritation and impatience. Like his mother. Ahem. When we encountered a 20 minute wait for a popular ride, though, I was thrilled. He was appalled.
What Did Work:
1) Getting There Early: For the first time in my life, I was at a park for opening. We hit Animal Kingdom as soon as it opened and walked right on Kilimanjaro Safari. Could have done it again if we wanted. Your kid gets the pick of the rides and a less crowded park.
2) Being Wheat: "Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit." John 12:24 I was given many, many opportunities to "be wheat". Thing 1's anxiety level leaves no chance for anything remotely fast or wild to be ridden. I looked longingly as we passed an empty line for Expedition Everest at park opening. But I knew pressure would cause more problems, so I had to die to myself and my needs in order to make this a fruitful trip for my son. Listening to the screams of Big Thunder Mountain from my 2nd trip of the day to Tom Sawyer Island was hard, but worth it when I saw my man running around with other kids, happy as can be.
3) Listening: Getting his input and acting on his suggestions went a long way in him being more amenable to my suggestions. In a family of three assertive boys, it's hard to drop the defenses and the insisting on what you want all the time. He trusted me to keep his needs in mind.
4) One on One: There is nothing like it. Obviously, the boy had no one with whom to fight; the hackles lowered. It goes without saying that he had a much better time being my only kid there. I could be the "yes" mom because I didn't have to cater to three different personalities. When asked for the impulse purchase, I caved because I knew I was only buying ONE item instead of three. I loved being able to give 1 child my undivided attention and even spoil him a little in a way I couldn't if the whole family were there.
At the end of the trip, I knew my kid a lot better than I did when we first set out. I thought I knew everything about him, but without the shield of his brothers, I learned a whole lot more. And he got to see me at my best - not constantly refereeing, not losing my patience (okay, I still did that but not nearly as much as I do at home), not YELLING. At the end of each day, when we were leaving whatever park we happened to be in, my least affectionate child would spontaneously reach over and hug me and say, "Thanks, Mom!" That wheat bore more fruit than it could have imagined.